Exhibition Round-Up: Hugo Pratt in Lyon and Peyo in Paris

To Lyon for the Pratt Exhibit!

The Hugo Pratt exhibit was held at the Musée des Confluences in Lyon, three hundred miles south of Paris. Thanks, though, to France’s wonderful high-speed train system, that’s just a day trip! I took an early train out of Paris and was in Lyon in around two hours. While at the station I spotted this rack of kids’ comics in one of the shops: 
Again, you can see that comics is pretty integrated into day-to-day life in France in a way that it’s really not in the U.S.  Anyway, the museum itself is beautiful and sits at a convergence point of the Rhône and Saône rivers. (There’s a trail/path system that runs along the bank of the Rhône all the way into downtown. After the exhibit I rented a bike and went to and from the city center on it. Highly recommended!) The Pratt exhibit is one of several rotating exhibits and it had been up for a while. Even so, it was quite busy–even packed at times–throughout the day. A few general thoughts about the exhibit before I dump all the pics I took into a big gallery:
  • The exhibition space was strangely dark.
  • Many of the pictures were up really high on the wall. Even a tall person like me (I’m 6′ 1″) couldn’t see the upper-placed images very well.
  • All the Caniff stuff (in the “Influences” section) was on loan from The Billy Ireland, not surprisingly.
  • Pratt used a pretty wide variety of tools: ink with nibs, ink with brush, felt tip pen, etc. 
  • By ’77 or so he seems to have converted entirely to India ink-based tools, but by ’88 he’s back to using markers.
  • Some of the marker stuff has faded quite noticeably.  
  • The earliest piece here was from ’59 and is very Caniff-influenced. The latest is from ’95 (the year he died) and is very loose–even sloppy. 
  • Some of the Italian lettering on his pieces is a very odd type style and I wondered if it was mechanical–from a Leroy lettering set maybe? 
One larger point as well: the exhibit was arranged thematically rather than chronologically and this made it really difficult to get an idea of Pratt’s progression as an artist. This is a common thing that museums seem to do when showing comics art–see also the recent travelling Hergé exhibit. I don’t know whether this is something the lay person really notices, but it always bugs me.  I understand the idea behind it, of course. In this case, the museum wanted to tie in the Pratt material with pieces they likely already had–so they could for example, show a bunch of Corto strips that have Pacific Islander-related stuff in them along with Pacific Islands artifacts the museum holds. This practice, though, results in some really odd juxtapositions, as here where a strip from 1969 and 1985 are presented together for no other reason than that they both have some similarities of setting.  But, these are of course minor quibbles compared to the Pratt originals themselves. Here’re a ton of pictures, in no particular order: The museum gift shop had some pretty amazing Corto Maltese merchandise, all of which I managed to restrain myself from getting… other than the exhibition catalog. It’s a really pretty book that contains a lot of the images from the show accompanied by guest essays by notable French comics writers, as well as our very own Dean Mullaney writing–naturally–on the Pratt/Caniff connection. There are far, far fewer originals reproduced in the book than were on display at the show, so I’m very glad I took so many pictures. I was a little surprised that the tome was a softcover, but that at least presumably helped in keeping the cost down to its fairly reasonable  €40.  Next: Les Schtroumpfs, AKA the Smurfs.  

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